Suck Teeth Compositions (After Rashaad Newsome)



Michèle Pearson Clarke

October 10 - November 21, 2020


Opening Reception on Saturday, October 10th by appointment, with the artist in attendance from 2-4pm. To schedule your visit please click here.


Artist Talk October 29th at 7pm as part of the Art Now! Speakers' Series

Please visit the Art Now! event page for more information.


Exhibition essay by Kelsey Adams.


In Shade Compositions (2005-present), a series of live performances and videos, the African-American artist Rashaad Newsome explores issues of Black authorship, appropriation, identity and belonging by conducting choirs of women (and sometimes, gay men) of colour who snap their fingers, smack their lips, roll their eyes, and cock their heads, creating expressive linguistic symphonies out of the nonverbal gestures and vocalizations of African-American women. Suck Teeth Compositions (After Rashaad Newsome) is a three-channel video and sound installation that both responds to and extends this inquiry by focusing on sucking teeth, an everyday oral gesture shared by Black people of African and Caribbean origin and their diasporas, including those of us who live here in Canada.

Referred to variously as kiss teeth, chups, steups, and stchoops, to suck teeth is to produce a sound by sucking in air through the teeth, while pressing the tongue against the upper or lower teeth, with the lips pursed or slightly flattened. West African in origin, this verbal gesture is used to signify a wide range of negative affects, including irritation, disapproval, disgust, disrespect, anger and frustration. Given that representations of African-American Blackness dominate and define mainstream understandings of the Black experience, when it comes to anti-black racism, most white Canadians are allowed to feel comfortable and are supported in their comfort by the historical and ongoing narratives of “not me,” “not us,” “only them, down there.” Suck Teeth Compositions (After Rashaad Newsome) is thus a response to the frustrations of living within this denial, and an expression of the anger and pain that many Black people often experience living in Canada, where we are always assumed to be better off, if not completely free of racism.



Michèle Pearson Clarke is a Trinidad-born artist who works in photography, film, video and installation. Using archival, performative and process-oriented strategies, her work explores the personal and political possibilities afforded by considering experiences of emotions related to longing and loss. Her work has been included in exhibitions and screenings at Le Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal; the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia; the Royal Ontario Museum; LagosPhoto Festival; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Maryland Institute College of Art; ltd los angeles; and Ryerson Image Centre and Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Art, Toronto.

Based in Toronto, Clarke holds an MSW from the University of Toronto, and she received her MFA from Ryerson University in 2015, when she was awarded both the Ryerson University Board of Governors Leadership Award and Medal and the Ryerson Gold Medal for the Faculty of Communication + Design. From 2016-2017, Clarke was artist-in-residence at Gallery 44, and she was the EDA Artist-in-Residence in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Toronto Scarborough for the 2018 winter semester. Clarke’s writing has been published in Canadian Art, Transition Magazine and Momus, and in 2018, she was a speaker at the eighth TEDxPortofSpain. Most recently, Clarke has been awarded the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts 2019 Finalist Artist Prize, and she was a nominee for the 2019 Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Award. She is currently the inaugural 2020-2021 artist-in- residence at the University of Toronto’s Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, and the Photo Laureate for the City of Toronto (2019-2022).


Kelsey Adams is an arts and culture writer from Toronto. Her writing explores the intersection of art, music and film, with a focus on the work of marginalized creators. A former Canadian Art editorial resident, she has also written for the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, CBC Arts, NOW Magazine, The FADER, and C Mag.



Video still from Suck Teeth Compositions (After Rashaad Newsome)

3-channel, HD video installation with sound

16 x 9 format, 9:47

2018


The artist would like to gratefully

acknowledge the support of the

Toronto Arts Council.